The Ultimate Finals Playlist Compilation

A packed library, the lingering smell of coffee and overwhelming silence on campus can only mean one thing: final exams are here. The perfect playlist, artist or album is crucial for making it through late-night study sessions—in fact, a 2007 Stanford study on college students found that music moves the brain to pay attention.

The Bell has compiled a list of some of the most popular study music among students. Most have heard of Spotify playlists like “Deep Focus,” “Chill Lofi Study Beats” and “Feelin’ Good,” but here are some musical selections you may not know about:

For those with a mellow taste

Sean Angus Watson is a talented guitarist whose calming guitar instrumentals are perfect background music while studying. “He basically just does guitar riffs and there aren’t any words, so I can have some noise while I work,” says Stephanie Trolice ’22.

For those with a modern taste

Spotify’s “Focus Flow” is favored for up-tempo, instrumental hip-hop beats. The 95 songs give energy without becoming a distraction—basically the perfect hipster playlist for writing a paper in Chester’s Place.

For the folk fans

Paper Kites is known for its indie feel. The band sings passionate songs with poetic lyrics, so it’s not ideal for those easily distracted, but Claudia Sahaj ’22 says the music is easy to listen to. “They are an acoustic indie band, so most of their music is soft and relaxing.”

For imaginative minds

Lights & Motion creates epic instrumentals. The title of each song evokes its sound: “Glow” sounds distant and extraterrestrial, “Everest” sounds like an ascent up a mountain, “Exhale” sounds breathy and peaceful, and “The March” has a consistent drumline that builds throughout the song into a march. His creations start small and peaceful and build to form an emotion-stirring sound.

For classical music enthusiasts

Ólafur Arnalds composes instrumental songs centered around string instruments. Each piece is its own miniature symphony, with quiet beginnings that lead to passionate endings with a full symphonic sound.

For an upbeat study break

While it can be challenging to focus when upbeat music is playing, Lilli Johnson ’23 says that Spotify’s “All Nighter” playlist has made her most efficient while studying. “It keeps me awake, but also doesn’t distract me with lyrics that I would want to sing along to,” she says. The songs range in sound from classic hip-hop beats to African drum lines to Japanese instrumentals and modern interludes similar to “Focus Flow.”

For a worshipful study session

Instead of putting worship in one box and studying in another, Brianna Rivera ’22 listens to Without Words: Genesis by Bethel Music while studying to combine the two. “It has the same nature and character of popular worship songs without the words, which helps me to focus on the task at hand and experience the peace that lies in worship music,” she says. The album includes instrumental versions of famous songs including “Reckless Love,” “What a Beautiful Name” and “Living Hope,” to name a few.

Hopefully one of these artists or playlists creates the perfect atmosphere during all night study sessions in the library. To double check exam times, use the final exam locator.

By Ellian Chalfant ’22, communication arts and Spanish